Is it time to update your Money Story?
{Why the answer is always yes.}

written by Bari Tessler November 28, 2017
Money Story

Has this ever happened to you? Someone asks you a question — one you know the answer to, inside and out, like the back of your very own hand. But somehow, for some reason, you flub it. You give a weirdly incomplete or off-the-mark answer.

Like when someone asks you how you got into the work you do. And you give a quick recap of the story … and later realize that you only told the boring bits! Somehow, you left out all the passion and juicy serendipities and how it’s fulfilling not one but 3 of your childhood dreams.

It’s so funny how we can “mess up” telling our own stories.

Even when we know them more intimately than anyone else could. Sometimes, even when we tell them to ourselves. And yep — you guessed it — especially when it comes to money.

This very thing happened to me during a recent interview. And it was about something truly, embarrassingly important. My Money Story.

Now, this is something I’ve thought and felt and written a ton about. I’ve combed through my own Money Story, chapter by chapter. I’ve guided thousands of people through uncovering, retelling, and updating their own Money Stories. This is one of the core teachings in my Art of Money methodology.

So you’d think it would be easy for me to answer the question, “What’s your Money Story, Bari?”

But for some reason, when I heard this question that particular day, I flubbed it.

Maybe it was my caffeine level or the barometric pressure. Or maybe I felt a little rushed. Whatever the reason, when I thought back over the experience the next day, I felt a little uncomfortable about the answer I’d given.

Sure, what I shared was true and sensitive.

I talked about the unspoken messages I’d received about money, as a child. I explained that I grew up with a lot of generosity … and we didn’t speak openly about money, so there were lots of unclear or miscommunicated conditions and expectations tied to it. And I shared some specific moments from my childhood where I felt controlled by my father, through money.

See? It’s an open, vulnerable share. And yet, it also felt … off.

The next day, I gently felt into why I felt so uncomfortable with the answer I gave and what I would say differently, if given the chance.

Wait — what’s a Money Story?

I had to go back to the drawing board and feel into the whole definition of what a Money Story is.

Your Money Story is the entire constellation of your relationship with money. It is unique to you and includes:

  • The historical facts of your financial life, past and present (and how you’re looking to the future).
  • All of the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, patterns, and emotions around money. (Because money is never just about the money.)
  • Everything you learned about money from your family of origin, your community, economic class, religion, and lineage.
  • All the ways you might have taken those beliefs on, rebelled against them, or worked through them.
  • Strengths and challenges. Positive and negative (and neutral) things. Things that are serving you now and things that are not.

{Here’s a big, full article all about this concept of a Money Story.}

As I thought back over the Money Story I’d shared in that interview, I realized why it felt so off to me.

It was outdated. Incomplete. Stuck in the past.

You can update your Money Story — and your financial identity — anytime you like.

You see, you are always growing, evolving, learning, and changing. And so is your relationship with money — right along with you. Especially if you’re consciously working on your money relationship.

Maybe your family of origin had a deep scarcity mentality when it came to money and you carried that with you for years … but now that you’re a successful entrepreneur in your forties, you have an easier time feeling resourced and thriving in your financial world.

Or maybe you spent most of your life avoiding money or having other people take care of it for you (your parents, your spouse, or your accountant). But you’ve started getting in touch with money in the past few years. You’ve started tracking your income and expenses on Mint or YNAB, and actually enjoy knowing where your money is going. It’s time to update your financial identity from someone who avoids money to someone who’s making some brave steps towards friendship and savvy with it.

This reminded me of one of my all-time fave money teachings: updating your financial identity.

This is some seriously powerful stuff from one of my dear colleagues, Fabeku Fatunmise.

Fabeku teaches about identity — and financial identity — in a way I’ve never quite heard, before. He says that identity is fluid. That we can update it everysingleday, if we want. And that shifting our external financial reality must start with shifting our internal pieces — our identity.

Here’s a short clip where Fabeku and I talk about financial identity and how important it is to update it:

“Our sense of possibility is directly connected to our sense of identity.”
~ Fabeku Fatunmise

Ooooh, doesn’t that just give you chills? So good.

I love this idea: we can update our financial identity. In fact … we must.

It’s the same with our Money Stories.

We have the power to write new chapters in our Money Story anytime we like.

We can look back at painful old passage and reframe them or reclaim gifts buried within them. We can zoom out and put what our parents did with money into a wider perspective of their own upbringing, challenges, lineage — and gifts, too.

This is what was missing from my answer when that interviewer asked me about my Money Story.

Yes, it was honest and open. But it was also stuck in the past. Incomplete. Focused almost entirely on the challenges I’d faced with money and not the gifts and strengths I’d received and concocted from them.

Looking back, I wished I’d included more of the positive things my father taught me about money (like an entrepreneurial spirit), the thrifty habits I’d learned from my Mom and grandparents, and all the ways I’ve found to deepen my gifts and smarts around money: in honest conversations with my husband and son, in shifting my business structure, in setting boundaries, in feeling “enoughness,” in claiming my gifts, and on and on.

Don’t imprison yourself in an old, outdated, or negative financial identity. Honor the fullness of your Money Story — now.

Lo and behold, in my very next interview, I was given a chance to redeem myself and my retelling of my Money Story! The very first question I was asked in that very next interview was: “What is your Money Story?”

This time, I nailed it.

I shared a fuller, more complete story of my relationship with money. I included both the light and the dark: the challenges and obstacles and the gifts and strengths. I touched on the past yet also shared the important ways I’d grown my relationship with money over the years.

It felt wonderful.

Each time we tell our Money Story, we can find ways to make it more current, honoring, complete, and authentic.

Even if we’re just telling our Money Story to ourselves. (Maybe especially then!)

Want to tell your own Money Story? Start here.

These questions are pulled straight from my intimate money storytelling series, Money Memoirs. I’ve asked many, many people these questions in interviews (and you’ll have a chance to hear more soon!)*

1. How would you describe your relationship with money? Include the practical facts but also the emotions, beliefs, relationships, and more. {Inspiration here.}

2. What are your strengths around your relationship to money? What really works for you in this area? Where do you rock with money? What are you proud of?

3. I believe everyone has money shame. What is the Money Shame story you tell yourself? How does this show up in your life and business?

4. What was a really tough money experience you went through? Please share the gory details. What did you do to get yourself through this time? What did you learn from it, and what are you doing differently because of it?

5. Do you have a money practice? What does this look like for you? (e.g. Do you attend to your money relationship through a daily, weekly, monthly, and/or yearly practice? Do you have money dates? Do you use a bookkeeping system? Do you have a ‘budget-plan’?)

6. I believe our money relationship is never “handled”. We’re always evolving, upgrading, tweaking and expanding our money lives. What are you working on right now? What’s new for you emotionally, practically, or spiritually with money? What’s the next level for you? (e.g. Are you adding new financial support people to your team, Are you learning Quickbooks for the first time, are you working on receiving in a new way?)

7. What’s the most important nugget of money wisdom that you would wish to pass on to young people? What is the Money Legacy you would wish to leave?

Remember to honor the fullness of your Money Story … and update it regularly.

Honor all the shades and contours of your Money Story. Positive and negative. Light and dark. Challenges and gifts.

And above all: let this be a practice in compassionate curiosity. Be gentle with yourself. Insert Body Check-Ins liberally.

Here’s to all of your richness and fullness and honoring all the ways you’ve grown. Around money … and beyond.

*Good news! A brand-new Money Memoirs mini-series is headed your way in January. Yup: I’ll be interviewing a whole new group of folks about their relationship with money (including how they’ve updated it, over the years). I can’t wait to share these with you.

Psssst … January is also your next (and final) chance to join The Art of Money 2018 community. So if you missed our earlybird opening last month, don’t fret!

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